Forget Vogue and Fashion Week. In Miami, the best trends are found inside a glass. This season, the Magic City's best barkeeps and restaurateurs predict cocktail trends that range from autumnal hints of nutmeg and clove to a tiki revival.
From Miami Beach to Wynwood to the MiMo District, bartenders and mixologists make seasons change through limited-edition concoctions.
At Top Chef winner Jeremy Ford's Stubborn Seed in South Beach, bar manager Landon Nero recently rolled out a completely refreshed cocktail menu. His Stubborn Rain includes pineapple madeira, a splash of Scotch, and bourbon infused with pineapple.
"It's got that Miami tropical feel but can still pair well on a chilly night," Nero says.
Nero, who joined Stubborn Seed this past summer, is also behind the Egyptian Sting, which calls for a honey-roasted Egyptian chamomile blend from Miami's JoJo Tea mixed with gin and fresh lemon juice.
"Miami doesn't have a true winter season," he says. "People come here to escape the cold, so we're trying to make cocktails that are light, refreshing, and can keep people going throughout the day."
In addition to Miami-inspired fall flavors, one restaurant owner expects an increase in themed tiki and mezcal bars. "I definitely think we're going to see a rise in tiki this season," says Ani Meinhold of Phuc Yea and Madame Phuong, "but Miami's own version of it. Everyone has their own spin. Here, people want to sip clean cocktails, not ones that are supersweet."
Meinhold, along with Phuc Yea's Cesar Zapata and nightlife guru Mykel Stevens, opened Madame Phuong this past August inside Phuc Yea in the MiMo District. At the evening tiki lounge, sip Meinhold's favorite: the Tear of a Tiger's Eye, made with Jack Daniel's rye,Suntory Toki, house-made orgeat, lemon, and tiki bitters.
Besides Meinhold's spot, Drunken Dragon pairs Korean barbecue and tiki cocktails in South Beach, while Casa Florida — a pop-up at Habitat at the 1 Hotel South Beach — offers its own Polynesian-style drinks. Even Miami Beach's rustic Italian restaurant Macchialina has entered the tiki world, hosting cocktail competitions with complimentary themed bites.
At the Broken Shaker in Miami Beach, managing partner Gabe Orta will debut a fall cocktail using hoshigaki, a dried Japanese persimmon, which is a round, sweet, and honey-flavored orange fruit. Named the Persimmon Crusta, the drink blends Cocchi Americano, cognac infused with ripe persimmons, a pinch of lemon, orange liqueur infused with hoshigaki, and a cinnamon-sugar garnish.
"We're looking to showcase flavors from around the world, one of them being Japan," Orta says. "We want to play around with different ingredients that you wouldn't associate with the traditional American fall drinks."
Watr at the 1 Rooftop offers another unique fall cocktail, the Dark Side. Each pour, which is black in color, contains smoky mezcal infused with activated charcoal, grapefruit liqueur, and lime juice. Then there's Sunset Harbour's NaiYaRa, which goes sweet with the Rum Forest Rum, containing pomegranate, basil, and passionfruit.
At Wynwood's Beaker & Gray, the Cobb's Robler includes a robust mix of Scotch, walnut, cinnamon, cream sherry, and bitters.
"What we try to do is find an interesting treatment to a classic cocktail," Beaker & Gray's executive bar manager, Ben Potts, says. "South Florida is getting more sophisticated."
In addition to seasonal cocktails, Meinhold anticipates a rise in mezcal bars. Interestingly, in the past few months, a number of restaurants have debuted with extensive selections of the agave-distilled spirit.
This past summer, Diez y Seis opened at the Shore Club in South Beach with customized mezcal carts that roam the restaurant to offer special drinks prepared tableside. La Cervecería de Barrio — a Mexico-based seafood restaurant that opened its first U.S. location on South Beach's Lincoln Road in August — stocks its bar with more than 100 kinds of the agave-based spirit. Then there's the Gates Hotel South Beach's Agaveros Cantina, which also opened in the summer with dozens of mezcals.
Looking to the future, Stubborn Seed's Nero says, "Miami has seen so much improvement when it comes to cocktails. It's a lot more common to see ingredients made from scratch and bartenders finding ways to incorporate different foods into drinks."